‘to go to hell – or to heaven – in a handbasket’

‘hell in a handbasket’ (1841), ‘heaven in a handbasket’ (1834) in Irish contexts—‘handbasket’ chosen for alliteration with ‘hell’—‘to go to hell in a handbasket’ meant ‘to go to hell’—‘to go to heaven in a handbasket’ meant ‘to go to heaven’ or ‘to go to hell’

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meaning and origin of ‘red in tooth and claw’

UK, 1857—characterised by savage violence or merciless competition—from Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘In Memoriam’ (1850), in which ‘red in tooth and claw’ refers to Nature’s brutality

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meaning and origin of ‘the milk in the coconut’

‘the milk in the coconut’: a puzzling fact or circumstance; alludes to the question of how the milk got into the coconut—of British-English origin (1832), not of American-English origin as stated by the Oxford English Dictionary

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origin of ‘bobby’ and ‘peeler’ (‘police officer’)

UK, 1844—‘bobby’: a policeman—from ‘Bobby’, pet form of ‘Robert’, in allusion to Robert Peel, who, as Home Secretary, established the Metropolitan Police in 1829—cf. ‘peeler’ (1816), originally a member of the Peace Preservation Force in Ireland established in 1814 by Robert Peel

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meaning and origin of ‘to raise Cain’

to create trouble or a commotion—USA, 1840—a euphemism for synonymous phrases such as ‘to raise the Devil’ and ‘to raise hell’—from the name of the eldest son of Adam and Eve and murderer of his brother Abel

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